Common Threads in a World of Stuff in a New Decade

Common Threads in a World of Stuff in a New Decade

“If you take your eyes off this page and look down, you will see that your body is encased in cloth. (I am assuming, dear Reader, that you are not naked..)” – Kasia St. Clair

Naked or not, we all like to connect the dots of life. The threads that connect us are not just physical. And we know the tensile strength of spider webs that can cross great distances with amazing symmetry. Of course, threads are also physical. Elizabeth Cline (activist for quality fashion consumer education) writes in her new book, The Conscious Closet, “Clothes are our most personal and universal possession. I bet you’re wearing the stuff right now.”

We live in a world of stuff. As Paperhand Puppet Intervention showed in their great 2019 Fall show, we live in a mountain of stuff, and what helps us when we need help, more stuff!  Their 2019 We Are Here theme beautifully represented the vital connections of all of life. “We’ve been reflecting on how one of the biggest problems that we all face is our disconnection and our ability to distance ourselves from what we really care about in the world around us,” said Paperhand co-creator Jan Burger.  “ … we wanted to focus on that process of taking a stand and saying We Are Here.”

Disposable stuff. This world of disposable and dispensable is unrecognizable to our grandparents and parents of certain ages, and to those out of our mainstream fast track consumer life. It is all many of us know. Either way, beliefs form habits, and habits are only sustainable as long as we support them.

Last year a friend told me that she bagged and threw away a perfectly good toaster because she was fed up with the ants they’d been battling in their kitchen. I know this is not a rational response, she said. I didn’t use the toaster much and had cleaned it of crumbs and every last memory, along with the usual ant-fighting methods. Still, the ants, she said, gathered there regularly like in a coliseum for a big event. I lost my mind at that moment and ranted all the way from home to the landfill. I felt guilty but was furious, and that was it, remove that Thing, out of sight, out of mind. I could relate. We all have our moments when we’re pushed to our emotional limits. Whether ants or romance or activism, we see a new facet of our reflective self and an opening for change when we’re compelled to act.

Elizabeth Cline wrote in her first book, Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion (2012): “I owned more clothing than I did anything else and probably knew the least about it of anything I bought.” Cheap fashion, like the Emperor’s new clothes, shows its true self when we begin to think about the object’s story, or origins, supply chains. Some say that cloth gave humanity the ability to choose their destiny and that the industry of fabric is older than pottery and metallurgy, maybe even than agriculture and stock-breeding.

Innovation with people and the planet in mind, not just profit. Saxapahaw’s history is interwoven with textiles and politics, and it’s a place simmering with stories old and new. The store and mill occupants continue its history of challenge and innovation, as do all of us who live here and enjoy this village as home. As the ways our human habits affect every level of our environment become more visible and affect more people, the benefits of knowing and shopping our values also become more evident. We say, know your farmer, know where your food comes from. Along with Heather Seaman, our neighbor at Freehand Market, Eric Henry and those at TS Designs are a great example of the difference such conscientiousness makes when you’re all in. Know your makers, they say. Track your shirt, know the story of your clothing. We can know where the seeds, plants, and dye comes from, who grows, trims, folds, sells, who wears the product. We are thrilled that every SGS and Saxapahaw shirt or hoodie that we wear and sell supports that chain. Now, our cultural awareness is being tagged by industry leaders—the collective consciousness has reached Italian Vogue, for example, whose current issue cover presents illustrations rather than the cost and run of glossy photo-shoots and their environmental effects.

The theme, like the river, remains: our choices matter. Let’s claim them as we think about change and our part as creators. One of the great things about living in a place like Saxapahaw is our ever-growing appreciation for what community means, what roots and stories mean, and why knowing something about the place and people that make it what it is, is vital to a satisfying life.

The longer we live, the more aware we may become of the invisible concentric circles of life that are binding, strong and fragile, physical and beyond-the-physical. We all have our infinite awakenings to the beginnings and endings, the connections between people, roots and blooms, parts that make our world, our cars, our technology work, what makes us laugh, what makes us cry. Connections inspire, challenge, support the life fabric we weave together. Along the way we meet people, friends who inspire us and teach us by their example how to think beyond where we have been, how to sew a straight seam to mend a well-worn piece of clothing, how to change a flat tire, how to grow and cook food, how to accept change by accepting our individual responsibility for our choices and how we acknowledge our connections with others and our world. One way to celebrate connections is by being more conscious of the power we have to effect change that begins at home, within each of us.

Happy New Year!